Sunday, June 25, 2017

CANON OF FILM: "A CLOCKWORK ORANGE"

A CLOCKWORK ORANGE (1971)

Director: Stanley Kubrick
Screenplay: Stanley Kubrick based on the novel by Anthony Burgess



Kubrick’s most controversial film, “A Clockwork Orange,” has been discussed, argued, debated, and analyzed since it was released with strong advocates on both camps, but even those who are against it admit that it must be considered. Me personally, I've never really known which side of the fence I fall on this one, although I generally err on the side of it being a masterpiece, but I can see why some wouldn't rank it so high. Honestly, it's a frustrating film for me, more or less I tend to think of it as the kind of film, that you have to see, and then only see again to show other people who haven't seen it, so that they know it exists.

After “2001…” Kubrick seemed to go for nothing but extremes with this film, which takes duality of man and reversals of roles to his orgasmic zenith. The movie goes so far outside of any realm known up to this point, and since, that it’s hard to quite distinguish what it is. It’s a violent film, it’s a political film, it’s a science-fiction film, it’s even considered a comedy, there’s hardly any genre it fits perfectly into. Yet, the movie also is the first film to note of gang violence, some twenty or so years before it would become a popular term. The opening sequences involves the film’s, and I use this term exceptionally satirically, “hero,” Alex (Malcolm McDowell) and his gang of droods, (the film stays true to the Anthony Burgess’s “Nadsat,” language he created in the book, a mix of English, Russian and slang) as they spend time at a Milkbar in a semi-futuristic London, where milk is dispensed from statues of naked girls. They then beat up an old man under a bridge, get in a gangfight in a casino with another gang, drive to the country, causing half a dozen car wrecks, before going to a house where they beat up and gag and old man as Alex rapes his wife, and forever altering the meaning to the lyrics of “Singin’ in the Rain.” That’s the first six minutes. Alex is one of the most maniacal villains in film history. A lover of the ultra-violence, a sadistic rapist, who goes off on these crime spree adventures, for no other purpose other than because he wants to and can. Yet, he is a lover of Beethoven, particularly the Ninth, even hitting his own droods, when they make fun of a woman singing it.

Eventually Alex kills a woman, using, a blatantly phallic object, to understates it severely, and sent to prison, where he undergoes Ludovico treatments which attempt to have him lose all of his urges to do evil, and become a good person in society. Now sprout with feelings of desperate pain at even the thought of doing “evil,” activities like violence and rape, he is now subject to the animalistic natures of the supposedly civilized society. Are we supposed to suddenly look at this degenerate among degenerates as the film’s human? He is our humble narrate-tor, but either way, Kubrick doesn’t seem to give us much choice, like Hitchcock, forcing us to see the film through his eyes, manipulating the screen, with such shots including bizarre angles on faces of characters, with acting that seems sardonically detached, and even a comically fast-forwarded orgy done to the William Tell overture.

I think that's where ultimately "A Clockwork Orange" continues to lose it's power for me. Kubrick's main theme was the duality of man, and of course, it's arguably explored more here in this film that in any other he's done, but the problem is that it's too simplistic. The only thing that's explored is whether or not society created Alex or whether Alex alters society and nothing else in particular. The movie itself, ends only 2/3rds the way through where the book does, which shows a more character arc for Alex, and here, Alex isn't so much a character as a construct. a representation. He's that in the book, but in the novel it's more of a parable for growing up as a society and a person, taken to extremes but here however, he's more a representative of the two extremes of human nature, and there is no third level.

Of course it wasn't Kubrick's intention to make us care or sympathize with Alex, or even with his victims, which is why I’m still in the camp that this film is one of Kubrick’s best, but it’s subjective alright. I have to be as detached from the film as the characters in the film, which not only was Kubrick's intention, but, essentially what the film is about. It's always a good idea when it's somebody else we're talking about....  

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

IS GORDON RAMSAY THE BIGGEST TV STAR OF ALL-TIME? Stop laughing, he might be. Time to consider his place.




So, this Emmy season, is very competitive. I mean, have you looked at how many series and actors and-, just everybody, everybody has submitted their names for an Emmy this year. Hell, I'm slightly amazed that I'm not on any of the ballots, although I haven't checked them all, so maybe I am and just haven't found it yet. Here you guys check it you want:

http://www.emmys.com/ballots/2017

but it got me thinking about the state of television at this moment. And then, I started thinking about television, all-time, and comparing it today, and that's when, something kinda dawned on me, something that I hadn't really noticed before, but frankly I couldn't ignore. Gordon Ramsay might be the biggest television star of all-time!

I know, that- that seems, weird. nonsensical even. I can hear everybody listing other names right now, "Hey, wait a minute, what about so-and-so, and so-and-so, and hold on, he's not even an actor! I mean, sure he's on TV, but that's not the same as being a legitimate star, he's just a chef!? Cooking shows don't make someone the biggest television star! Especially the angry Scottish Chef we tolerate, right? Right?

Um, do you guys just know how long he's been on television? 


Tubi's cheap and free people, get it. This is "Ramsay's Boiling Point", this was a documentary series made in 1998, about him opening up a new restaurant. He was already famous in the foodie community at this point, but it's this docu-series that made him a television star, back in, again, 1998! He's been basically on television consistently on two continents for almost twenty years now, and it doesn't look like it's gonna stop anytime soon. And let's keep that in mind too, almost nobody, has had hugely successful television shows as a performer, on both sides of the Atlantic, at the same time. Not to mention, multiple shows, on both sides of the Atlantic, at the same time.

Also, if you, only consider actors among a list of television stars, then you're just blind to television dynamics and celebrity. You know, who the First Emmy for Television personality? Beat out Mr. Television himself, Milton Berle, and this was before Lucy broke? Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen! Seriously, a televangelist. In fact, he won that category twice. And, in the world where Reality Television is often king, especially on network, it should not be a surprise, that a non-actor gets that mark. "American Idol" was the number one show on television, for a record seven straight years. Hell, "Arthur Godfrey's Talent Scout", which, was basically, just the 1950s version of "Star Search", was the number one rated show in 1952, and even during the reign of "I Love Lucy", "The $64,000 Question, actually topped it in the ratings during one year, and over the years since, "60 Minutes" "Survivor", 'Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?" , those shows made TV stars, as much as "Friends" or "Seinfeld" ever did.  Regis Philbin holds the world record for most amount of time on television, people, when analyzing television stars, don't immediately just think "actors". 

So, what else is there? How about money? Well, the highest paid person on television is Judge Judy, also, not an actor, and is only on one show, although she does produce a couple others, and more importantly, those are daytime series, which do not have the ratings that Primetime shows have. But still they're important, so,  let's check the celebrity money lists.

https://www.forbes.com/celebrities/list/#tab:overall

Here's the Forbes, list of richest celebrities, let's see, musician, musician, author, musician, athlete, musicians, number seven is Howard Stern, doesn't make the majority of his money being a television star, he's a radio star. Dr. Phil McGraw, is number 15, Daytime television, produces a few things outside of his show, doesn't star in much outside of his show, (and owes everything to Oprah Winfrey I might add), #16, Ellen DeGenerous, as a performer, two successful television shows in her career, the Daytime show, much more successful than she ever was on Primetime, still also, stand-up comedy money, doesn't have a current Primetime show as a performer. #18. Jerry Seinfeld, does have a Primetime show at the moment, "Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee", so that counts. Most of his money was made on Primetime television however, in the past, when he only had one successful show on television, although, syndication money is huge. That's the one show to have if you're only gonna have one. (He probably is a bigger TV star than Ramsay, overall, but not in terms of the Primetime landscape at the moment)  #19. Mark Wahlberg, does have a TV show on at the moment, and it's in the reality genre, "Wahlburgers". Mostly a film actor however, which is where he made most of his money, most of his television credits are as a producer. There's one other actor and television star ahead of Gordon Ramsay, and that Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson. TV show, he's got "Ballers" on HBO. He also became famous, originally as a TV star. Can't ignore. However, by nearly every measure you can think, biggest movie star in the world, half his biggest fans, probably aren't aware he's got a television show on.

Gordon Ramsay is number #26 on this list. One higher than Ryan Seacrest, and he's known for television. He does radio as well, but in front of and behind the camera, Ryan Seacrest is a television star. He's 24 spots ahead of Simon Cowell, 20 spots ahead of Judge Judy. Not that this is even relevant, but there isn't another Chef, anywhere on this list, and there could've been. There are plenty of TV stars, who are chefs now, many in terms of critical acclaim, are way more successful that Gordon Ramsay. Tom Colicchio, for instance. Anthony Bourdain, for instance, Mario Batali, Rachel Ray.... At a certain point in his career, Emeril LaGasse, was big enough he could've hypothetically been on this list, not as high as Gordon Ramsay is, and for all the supposed "Food Network Stars" there are, none of them are near this list. 

Currently, Gordon Ramsay, star in "MasterChef", "MasterChef Junior", "Hell's Kitchen", "The F Word" and "Hotel Hell", and those are just the big concurrently-running shows he does in America. "Kitchen Nightmares" ended, after seven seasons, that's a very good run for a show, and it wasn't canceled, he ended it. Big difference there, you can presume if it kept going, it might've stayed on the air. That's not counted limited series and one-offs he's had. And that's only counting the U.S. In England, "The F Word", five year run, that's big in England especially. "Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares" the British version of that show, three years. We're not even gonna count, how many other countries some of his series have been adapted to. Seven shows, you can legitimately call "Hits", in less than a 15-year-span.  

There's one other statute that I would normally use, to determine the biggest television star, and I can't, for Ramsay, because I can't do it for anybody, 'cause the results of the rating aren't revealed publicly, and those are the TVQ ratings. I think I've mentioned them before here, but if you don't know what they are, they're basically a rating system, that to this day is taken very seriously within the industry. You can how they determine the scores here on their website: 
http://qscores.com/

They do other, "quotient" scores as well, they've even separated TVQ and CableQ nowadays, but, this is a strange rating that determines not, how talented or major your show is, but how popular and well-known you are, and how much you're liked. The way, the television industry has always explained it, is, "Whether or not you'd want to invite this person, into you're home," which, is what you're doing when you're watching television. If there are actors, that, you recognize that, seem to always get on all your favorite television shows, but you might not know or remember their name, they have a very good TVQ rating. 

Now normally, if I were to guess, I would not think Gordon Ramsay would have a good TVQ rating. I wouldn't. Knowing what I know about the system I would've thought, "This guy just yells and screams at everybody all day, why would I want him in my house? He's entertaining at it, but do I want him in my house? Do I like him, is he a favorite star of mine? Probably not. That said, Simon Cowell, huge on both sides of the Atlantic, still has hit television shows, Piers Morgan, still inexplicably in some cases still has hit television shows,... there's other precedents for somebody, who's a bit tempermental and at times abusive, but, people realize it's for a reason, and that they care about what they do so much that it makes them freak out, and yes, in the Chef world, he's got dozens of restaurants worldwide, including a three-star Michelin ranking, he cares about his craft, even today, enough, and no, he's not an anomaly in that world. He might be the most famous or infamous example of a Chef with that kind of dictatorial personality, but he ain't the only one, not by a longshot. People, probably like him. FOX, would not, basically, devote, I don't even know, it feels like half their weekly Primetime lineup to his shows, every year. I end up watching his shows, and I don't even like most of his shows. Yeah, this is not a recommendation article, I like "MasterChef" and "MasterChef Junior", and "Kitchen Nightmares", as series; they're okay, but none of them I would go out of my way to watch. If someone else puts it on, they're fine enough, I won't stop them, and half the time they are the best thing on TV at that moment, but no, there's no sane analyses out there where any of his shows rank among the best on television, even within the reality genre. And I really don't like "Hell's Kitchen" much at all, never have. vastly prefer "Top Chef" in terms of reality cooking competition shows, in fact, I don't even compare the two; they're not in the same league to me, and I honestly can't imagine why one would watch "Hell's Kitchen" when there's such a far superior alternative on the air. But "Hell's Kitchen" is still around, and "MasterChef" and "MasterChef Junior", they're not bad shows. They're not the greatest thing in the subgenre, but they're fine. If you're a foodie, you'll probably watch them and not necessarily feel ashamed. So, bottom line, he probably has a higher TVQ than we might think.

Now, how are the Neilsen Ratings? Well, they're patchy. Yeah, they're not great at the moment, they have been in the past. Still though,  two shows in the Top 100, and deep in the bottom half, but he's consistent, and the Neilsen ratings, well, they're not as relevant as they used to be with streaming, and they are going downhill now. (And considering that this is a Primetime schedules where there's maybe up and over 500 different options to watch, top 100, is pretty much a big hit show now) That's natural though, they've been on forever and like most shows these days, it gets it's core audience, and that audience sticks with it, and since it is reality, it costs less than to produce those shows than others, so they stay on the air. Ramsay is good at that. He's become a personality just through sheer force. He came up at the perfect time, when the conclave of star chefs met with the upswing of Simon Cowell popularity, and he parlayed that to a lot of fame and money, and to successful concurrent television programs running on two continents at once. Even if you combine the rating for his two top shows last year, "MasterChef Junior" and "Hell's Kitchen", he's a Top 20 TV stars. Those were only two of his shows, and with that alone, he produces the same average ratings as "Scandal".

I have no idea, whether he actually is the biggest TV star of all-time, but he's gotta be considered at this point. Sure, less people are watching television these days and unless you're a Super Bowl, you're not getting a 10.0 rating and that doesn't even mean what it meant beforehand anyway. Even adjusting for today though, he's on the list. The only other person I can think of that tried to, as a performer, juggle this many shows at once, at the same time was Alex Trebek in '91, and he only had three shows and it lasted, only for a couple months. Ramsay's had a few failures, but not as many as, others in similar positions have had. I'm not the biggest fan of the Scottish Chef, but I think it's a fair argument to say that he's one of the biggest television stars of all-time, and you can make a case for him being the biggest even. Why that is, is anybody's guess. He fluked into a successful and cheap formula, or FOX and BBC just keeping him the time slots for series and he produced them, 'til they found something better and just never got around to it, it could be that he's just popular and his shows usually become strong enough hits to keep around. It could just be that like an angry Scottish Chef to berate his own potential sous chefs, while simultaneously, being unusually nice to others in the industry or those who want in. Could just be that we like food, and he provides it on network television, although I can't help but notice that most other Primetime network reality food series have failed, besides his shows. (Did anybody watch more than one episode of "The Taste"?)

Yeah, I hate to admit it, but (Sigh) if you're trying to figure out who the biggest stars of Television are, don't leave off Gordon Ramsay. He belongs on the list and really high too. 

Friday, June 16, 2017

MY TOP 25 FILMS THIS CENTURY SO FAR LIST...!- Yeah, Yeah, I know, jumping on the bandwagon, (Annoyed sigh) We'll talk about the New York Times List, and I'll make out my own, for all of you to praise and bash.

(Annoyed sigh)

(David stares towards computer screenplay, where there's a section labels, BLOG IDEA SUBJECTS, under which read this list:)

TV ACTING-Are drama series, feeling a little too, soap opera-y in their acting and dialogue, lately?

MILO???????????

TOP TEN MOST UNDERSERVEDLY UNDERPLAYED SONGS ON CLASSIC ROCK RADIO

SOUTH PARK-LIBERTARIAN EDGE-ANALYSIS?
Why everybody's looking into "South Park" generation.

MOZART IN THE JUNGLE

SOAP-MOST UNDERRATED TELEVISION SHOW OF ALL-TIME!

IN DEFENSE OF "RENT"....

LIONSGATE/STARZ MERGER
http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/lionsgate-starz-get-shareholder-approval-44-billion-merger-950417?utm_source=twitter&utm_source=t.co&utm_medium=referral

(Sigh)

I'm not writing that Milo thing. (Deletes "Milo"). I'm not writing about TV Acting, that idea was half-assed. (Deletes line) I need time to do that Top Ten. How long has that "Bitter Script Reader" post been on my thing? Oh that's a year old, nevermind. I'm never getting around to that. (Delete that line) What else? Eh, do I feel like talking about old TV? Eh, I wish "Soap" was streaming somewhere so that I can detail exactly the order of all the events. That's a fun mind exercise. Eh, I'll save that for later. I'll save "Mozart" for later. Eh, defending "Rent", ehhhhhh. Nope, never mind. (Deletes that line, looks up) Well, maybe I'll talk about that in a Mixed Bag Blog at some point. (Puts line back) When was the Lionsgate Merger? Last year as well. God, I don't even remember what I wanted to write about with that. (Deletes that line.)

What else do I have to talk about?

(Scrolls down)

DO ALL THESE TELEVISION REVIVALS MEAN THAT TELEVISION IS DEAD?!
(Below is a long list of TV shows and films that are suddenly being revived

Oh right, TV Revivals. That list keeps growing, but everybody's writing about how Hollywood is unoriginal. I've written on it, like nine times. At this point, I'm just being unoriginal! What else, anything else happen lately?

KATHY GRIFFIN VS. DONALD TRUMP

Oh God. Do I want to flush my career in Hollywood down the toilet this week? (Shrugs) Yeah, why not. He's trying to Rosie her, she's standing up, she shouldn't have apologize, blah, blah, blah, I can make a blog out of that. I get to dump on Trump, that'll be good. Besides, it's not like there's gonna be any other comedians with a political edge getting int trouble this-,

Bill Maher, HBO Face Backlash After Host Uses Racial Slur on 'Real Time...'
http://variety.com/2017/tv/news/bill-maher-n-word-backlash-reaction-1202453193/

AHHHHH! GOD DAMMIT BILL! WHAT THE FUCK! I haven't even written my Kathy Griffin piece yet, and now...-!!!!!!!!!!!!!! what did you do, now that's suddenly pissed everyone off?

(20 minutes of research, sigh)

Okay, that was a little funny, but, No! No! I'm not defending "house nigger", Bill, you already get me in enough trouble for liking you. I mean, I got it, you switched to a character-, you know what, NO! I'm not in the mood! Sorry, Kathy, sorry Bill, I'll defend you guys another day. (Which would be a lot easier to do if you guys would stop apologizing every time you piss someone off!!!! [Sigh] Well...- eh, never mind, apologizing was the right thing to do here, at least for Bill. (Eye roll) And for Kathy, I guess, sorta. Definitely for Bill, you definitely apologize!)

You know, this is an entertainment blog let's find something about entertainment, anything going on? What'g going in the Facebook groups, anything? Why's everybody doing their Top 25 films of the Century so far? Oh, 'cause of the New York Times? I just did a Top Ten List, it wore me out. I'm not doing another one. Besides, I'm waiting for AFI to do there's! Seriously, does anybody know if that's coming up or not, it's been ten years since the last one, and I can't even get confirmation if they're actually doing a Top 100 this year? Anybody know? Seriously, does anybody know?

(Long pause, silence)

Yeah, what the hell, let's do a couple thousand words on Television Revivals.

(David begins typing)

ONE HOUR LATER

(David finishes typing frantically and looks up at the screen, which just reads.)

Television revivals suck! Stop doing them! 

(David continues to stare at the article.)

Seriously, any word on the AFI?

"Last time I heard, they’re gonna update the list for its 25th Anniversary Edition which would be 2021 or 2022, since 2007 was its 10th Anniversary if I’m not mistaken.
Idk I saw that article years ago already so maybe i’m wrong!"---thesuperkian on Goldderby.com
2021!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! You're supposed to do them every ten year-! Ah fuck it! Alright, The New York Times, folks! 


Alright, first thing first, let's talk about their list. Who exactly are the New York Times for instance. Well, in this case, while they did ask for opinions and recommendations on Facebook, and full disclosure, I'm one of the ones that responded to their poll on Facebook, so, yeah, there's a chance I had some influence on this list, but basically, they're Manohla Dargis and A.O. Scott, the two film critics for the Times. (Or the two "Chief Critics", and yes, that's their official title, there's also people like Glenn Kenny, Jeanette Catsoulis, Neil Genzlinger, Andy Webster, Alessandra Stanley, Ken Jaworski, Nicole Herrington, Daniel M. Gold, Brian Seibert, eh, Mike Hale, occasionally, there's a lot of critics, for the Times, but A.O. and Manohla are the two critics who everybody will immediately associate with the paper instantly.) The reason I happened to know about the poll and responded, is because I follow Manohla Dargis on Facebook, who I genuinely consider the best film critic working today, and A.O. Scott, is by no means a slouch; these are two of the top people out there and their opinions holds weight, as does the reputation and status of the Times, especially in their entertainment and criticism sections. (Does confuse that statement with meaning that I always agree with them, 'cause naturally I don't)

Still, though,  this is kind of random. I mean I did focus and had/have tentative plans to respond to AFI's list, if and when a new one comes, is because there's a established tradition with that list, and also because it's,-, well, it's from the American Film Institute. I mean, it makes any shortlist of the most important and respected film school in the nation and it's list of successful alumnae is incredibly reputable. I know people who have gone to AFI; I actually know people who have participated in these lists, and they're quite talented and know their shit. And that's not counting the dozens I can name who've made success careers after going through the program, so, to me, while they're process of selecting movies and their reasoning behind their selections, to me, is a bit questionable, compared to say, BFI's annual list that "Sight & Sound" has every ten years, but, in a way, they're America's version of that.

The New York Times, they do produce films now, actually there, and some good ones in fact, you should check out their Youtube page, they're getting up there in the Documentary Shorts category, but they're not industry, they're not, well, they are critics, but there's just a few of them, it's only a Top 25, and even still, it's narrowed to just, this century. I mean, it's the best in the last fifteen years. Well, 16 and a half? I mean, I wasn't being facetious above there, with that rant, I was honestly thinking of just ignoring this, for several reasons, but, the main one, is, how important or relevant is this list?

(Sigh)

It's about as important or relevant as everyone else's. I mean, yeah if Watchmojo.com, made it, yeah, I probably wouldn't do this blog, and you'd just be reading about how Kathy Griffin holding a Donald Trump head was funny, or something else probably.

Another reason, is because I've made a bunch of my own lists, and to really criticize this, is mainly to combat it with a list of your own. And why not, in this case? At least, with the AFI and Sight & Sound list, you can argue that they're pretty good and official barometers of our thoughts at the time, based on the level of the experts participating, and quantifying it into a formula. And here, it's a couple people opinion, so.... (Shrugs), sure, why not. We're all already obsessive list-makers, so it's no surprise that basically half my Facebook friends have already posted on their FB pages and groups their top 25 choices, most of whom, I'm fairly certain have already had some pre-made or predetermined lists out there that they had ready to go, for such an event when prompt.

The reason I know that, is because I'm one of them. That should come as no surprise to anybody. I've made no secret about how I keep track of every film I've ever seen, and I've not only posted Top Ten Lists, for every years I've been doing this blog, but also Top Tens for every year, of this century already. You can find them on the TOP TENS page at the top. So yeah, that's the other reason I was ignoring this, was because, this is easy. I know, we all want to express ourselves through our lists and make out how difficult it truly is to deliberate and debate with outselves just to determine what we really consider to be the best of the best, but trust a guy who knows, some list are harder than others. I did Geekcast Radio Network Top 100 Animated Characters of All-Time list, that was un-fucking-believably hard. I also did their Top 100 TV Series list, and that was, difficult, but not as hard as the Animated Characters one. And on my own, I did that Top Ten Worst TV Theme Songs List very recently, that was painfully difficult! Much, much harder than the animated characters list. I had to do a lot of research for that list, and I'm still not 100% sure I did enough to truly, effectively do that list. And that was only a Top Ten. (Well, two top tens, but still, that's how hard it was, it turned into two, as I was working on it.) Top 25 Films of all-time, pretty easy. There's a reason why everybody else, immediately began doing it. Hell, I can basically, go up and just take those list I've already made and play eenie, meanie, miney, mo, or something like that, and boom, I'll be done pretty quickly.

I won't, just so you know. I'm gonna do this right as soon as I'm done with this introduction, I'm gonna legitimately revisit and re-evalutate the time period and reconsider my thoughts and see if I have stuck to basically the same expected list, or if my thoughts have changed somewhat. (If I'm gonna do this, I'm gonna do it right)

Before I do that, some thought on their list: First off, I haven't seen everything on their list. "The Death of Mr. Lazarescu" is on my Netflix and I'm hoping to get around to it sooner rather than later, as it's on my primary library waiting list, and last I checked, they have a copy. "The Gleaners and I" and "Silent Light", were not on my Netflix at the time the list was put out, nor are they available at my library, although I can assure you, that as soon as they can, they will be on there soon enough. I try to get to everything, but that's a fool's errand and things slip by occasionally.

Secondly, as to the ones I have seen, the only I would legitimately argue that it's not a good movie, at all, is Kelly Reichardt's "Wendy and Lucy". I like Reichardt's work, in general, and Michelle Williams gives a great performance, although I don't know if she's capable of anything else, and I do understand what Ms. Williams mentioned about Reichardt's work being both politically and timely, in hindsight that does make sense. That said, that movie was basically just, a homeless girl and her dog, and the big tragedy is that, she has to eventually get rid of the dog. (Shrugs) Sorry, I'm not a dog lover; I don't get the emotional attachment people are supposed to make to this film. Sure, she loves the dog, steals food for the dog, tries to still have her dog, even when homeless, which, already is a bit of a weird move, but-, we don't see much of how why she's so devoted to the dog, and frankly when the ending comes, I don't see it as emotionally compelling. I'm totally disagreeing with them on that one.

Everything else, (Shrugs, nods) seemed like a decent list. There's some that I thought were better than others, sure, but there's nothing on there that necessarily surprises or annoys me. I know some people, were a little shocked and surprised that Judd Apatow's "The 40-Year-Old Virgin" made the list, eh, yeah, I guess that's sorta the odd duck in the list, but I don't know, I gave that film 5 STARS when I first saw it, and I've seen it since; it more than holds up; it's a great movie. Um, if I had to pick an Apatow for the list, I might take "Trainwreck" instead, 'cause I think there's more interesting storytelling and perspectives going on, plus I'm fascinated by the Mae West aspects of it, but "The 40-Year-Old Virgin" was also a great film, and still remains funny, so... (Shrugs) honestly I didn't see it as that strange a choice. Maybe it was to people who don't realize that film critics don't just like obscure artsy foreign films but-eh, you know, I wasn't; I seem to remember A.O. Scott once putting "Superbad" on his Top Ten List, and "The 40-Year-Old Virgin" was a better film than that one, so... yeah, don't just look at the Rotten Tomatoes score, you gotta check and look at the reviews themselves, people.

Anyway, nothing else, really pops out to me. "There Will Be Blood" was their number one, okay. I'm a little surprised they thought that highly of  "White Material" and "Summer Hours" but, (Shrugs)  you know, I don't judge these on whether or not, I agree with them; I judge them on whether or not, they're reasonable, plausible, defendable, can I see these films, making a legitimate list like this. "Wendy and Lucy" is one I'd question on that level, but everything else, yeah, I can see a good argument or defense for them. (And if you really, really, really, are a dog person, than maybe I can see a defense of "Wendy and Lucy'" as well)

So, good list. Is it mine? Well, I have to make it so, I don't know 100% for sure, but probably not, but I recommend 96% of the films they chose, that's pretty good.

Alright, Manohla, Tony, thanks for the imput. Everybody else who's made their list and splattered it all over Facebook and Twitter and whatnot, thank you. Now, it's my turn.

(15 HOURS LATER)

Okay, here what I did. I decided to take an honest re-look at each of my annual lists, not only the Top Tens, but the Top 25s, I have for each years of the century., and decided to re-rank each film, in a separate list, going year by year. So, I start, with one year's Top 25, and then, I put each film of a different year's list, into the spots, and then did a another year and so on. I did this for every year, except 2016, because I haven't seen every film from that year yet. I decided to only consider ten films so far from that year, that I've seen. So, in total, I considered, 410 movies, which I narrowed down to Twenty-five. These are the 25, that I considered of the century, today. Tomorrow, maybe I'll think otherwise. But for now, this is where I stand, and if you're really curious, I'll leave an alphabetized list of every other film I considered at the bottom. I won't say much about each film, especially since I've written on pretty much all of them at some point, so, I'll try to leave the best links if possible.

Well, the Times went Top-to-bottom, so I guess I will too this time. So, what do I consider the best? Well, I thought about it and there were a few films I definitely considered among the best and most important. That said, I didn't change much at the top. My number one is "Lost in Translation"!


1. Lost in Translation 



I think what really separates this out for me, is how difficult it is to make a movie to express this kind of ennui emotion so well, and still be so amazing. I think it's masterful. That said, one film came close.


2. Moonlight



I hate to be the one to spoil my own Top Ten Lists later this year, and who knows, I haven't seen everything, but "Moonlight" might be one of the best movies ever made. It really could be.


3. The Tree of Life



It's a shame that Malick made such a great movie this late in his career, 'cause I think his later films would be more highly looked upon if he hadn't made this, but my God, this is such an epic masterpiece. This is probably the closest anybody's ever gonna come to making a movie about everything.


4. Almost Famous 



I actually do know some people who don't like this film; I cannot figure out why?


5. Life of Pi



On top of being a great cinematic achievement, the reason I rank "Life of Pi" so high is because of how it's really about the power of storytelling, and how important it can be, even during some people's darkest moments.


6. The Social Network



This is one of the few films on my list that I haven't written about extensively here before. I will at some point. This is David Fincher's best film by the way, and it's not a coincidence that it's the one with the Aaron Sorkin screenplay.


7. A Separation



When somebody brings up who the best filmmaker in the world is today, a name that constantly pops up to me is Asghar Farhadi. "A Separation" is the best film. Few people make movies with such classic form these days, and he's one of the best.


8. Adaptation. 




I know that while, most people seem to single out "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" as Charlie Kaufman's greatest work, I tend to find "Adaptation." far more experimental and ingenious. Trust me, I know, some day I'll post my 22-page analysis of it that I did in college years ago.


9. City of God



I just added this one to the Canon of Film, and yeah, it's a masterpiece. I literally don't know anybody who has seen it and hasn't been affected by it.


10. INLAND EMPIRE




I don't have "Mulholland Dr." on my list. I do think that's a masterpiece as well, but "INLAND EMPIRE" is the one David Lynch that I keep going to. If "Mulholland Dr." is Lynch's "La Dolce Vita", "INLAND EMPIRE" is his "8 1/2", and I find that I'm more of an "8 1/2" guy.


11. Once



John Carney's main motif might be music, but let's be frank, "Once" is visual poetry through music. This movie gets better every time, like a great album gets better with every listen.


12. Before Midnight



Richard Linklater's arguably the greatest American director working today; he's certainly the most compelling. And his "The Before Trilogy" of films gets better and better with each film.


13. Sideways



"Sideways" is about as perfect a movie as you can ever find. Watching it over and over again, I love how the movie reveals information, so quietly. You don't have to beat people over-the-head with exposition, sometimes you have to reveal it slowly, and "Sideways" knows how to do that brilliantly. (knock, knock, knock)


14. The Big Short




There's a few movies I guess I could've picked, about the recession and elsewise about money in America, but I think "The Big Short" is the most important and successful one at getting it's point across..


15. Mad Max: Fury Road



I never ranked George Miller as one of the great fimmakers before "Mad Max: Fury Road", despite generally liking most of his films, but after "...Fury Road", I'll never dismiss him again. Easily the best action film this century so far.


16. Samsara



Ron Fricke's "Samsara" is the highest-ranked documentary on my list, it's not the only one, but it's definitely the most visually-enthralling. This film deserved an Oscar-nomination for Cinematography.


17. Minority Report



I'm amazed when people don't talk about this as one of Steven Spielberg's very best films. It's up there, even among his very best.


18. Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans



Another film by a great director that gets overlooked in his filmography. "Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans" might be Herzog's strangest movie yet, and arguably Nicholas Cage's greatest performance. Whoever thought to put those two together was genius. Insane and mad, but genius.


19. How to Survive a Plague



I don't know what the most important film this century is, but I think this film makes any short list of that. It's also just compulsively watchable. "How to Survive a Plague" will be taught in high school history classes for decades. It might be the seminal work about the AIDS epidemic.


20. Boyhood



One of the boldest and most experimental films of all-time, only Richard Linklater could've made this masterful gem. Just the attempt is pretty damn bold in of itself, and the fact that it's utterly fascinating and entertaining as well, it's a great bonus.


21. WALL-E



I considered a few different animated features, many of them came close to making this list, eventually, I decided on "WALL-E" to be the top one, but it's certainly not the only great one. It is the best one though.


22. The Diary of a Teenage Girl



I've seen a few people put this film on their Worst Lists occasionally, and I have no idea what they're looking at. "The Diary of a Teenage Girl" is one of the most visually striking and fascinating movies I've ever seen, and one of the best coming-of-age films ever as well. Marielle Heller's storytelling is just amazing, she uses every trick in the filmmaker's book and it all works to tell a troubling but amazing story. One of the most overlooked films this century so far.


23. Hooligan Sparrow



This documentary about human rights' activist and ultimate badass Ye Haiyan, is amazing just for the fact that it was made at all; it's one of the most fascinating looks at the world today and an unprecedented look inside the fight of equality in China.


24. Munich



I think now, some people are finally coming around to how great Steven Spielberg's "Munich" is. There's so much going on in the film that people don't realize. It's not just a story of terrorism and it's effects, but it's a great look at just how tragedy and a mindset can lead to justifying the act, to delusion of the act. It's also just great action story and film that holds up on multiple viewings and on several levels. Perhaps Spielberg's riskiest film ever too, people don't realize or remember that part sometimes.


25. Moonrise Kingdom



And finally, I decided on Wes Anderson's best film, "Moonrise Kingdom", a film that actually comes off and feels like all those movies based on children's lit works lately should seem and feel like. Wes Anderson's always had literature as a key motif before, but it's never felt so much like a good book 'til this one.

Alright, I did it. There's what I consider the Top 25 the Century so far. Hope you enjoy, agree/disagree, let me know. Here's an alphabetized list of all of the other films I seriously considered for the list. Why...- I don't know, I just felt like it. Perhaps it's a fun game to play to see what you think got close, or what might've just missed from my other Top Tens, see what surprisingly wasn't even considered-, I- I don't know, I overdo everything, so here....  Here's some other great films to watch!

HONORABLE MENTIONS
3 Idiots-Rajkumar Hirana
4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days-Christian Mungiu
6ixtynin9-Pen-Ek Ratanaruang
12-Nikita Mikhalkov
12 Years a Slave-Steve McQueen
13 Conversations About One Thing-Jill Sprecher
20 Feet of Stardom-Morgan Neville
24 Hour Party People-Michael Winterbottom
25th Hour-Spike Lee
The 40-Year-Old Virgin-Judd Apatow
50/50-Jonathan Levine
127 Hours-Danny Boyle
(500) Days of Summer-Marc Webb
A.I. Artificial Intelligence-Steven Spielberg
About a Boy-Chris and Paul Weitz
About Elly-Asghar Farhadi
Adventureland-Greg Mottola
Ali Zaoua: Prince of the Streets-Nabil Ayouch
All is Lost-J.C. Chandor
All or Nothing-Mike Leigh
All the Real Girls-David Gordon Green
Amelie-Jean-Pierre Jeunet
American Hustle-David O. Russell
Amores Perros-Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu
Amour-Micheal Haneke
Anatomy of Hell-Catherine Breillat
Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy-Adam McKay
Angel-A-Luc Besson
Anomalisa-Duke Johnson and Charlie Kaufman
Another Year-Mike Leigh
Anvil! The Story of Anvil-Sacha Gervasi
Antwone Fisher-Denzel Washington
Arrival-Denis Villeneuve
The Artist-Michel Hazanavicius
At Berkeley-Frederick Wiseman
Audition-Takashi Miike
The Aviator-Martin Scorsese
Baadassss!-Mario Van Peebles
The Baader-Meinhof Complex-Uli Edel
Babel-Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu
Bad Santa-Terry Zwigoff
The Bank Job-Roger Donaldson
The Barbarian Invasions-Denys Arcand
Batman Begins-Christopher Nolan
A Beautiful Mind-Ron Howard
Before Sunset-Richard Linklater
Before the Devil Knows You're Dead-Sidney Lumet
Best in Show-Christopher Guest
A Better Life-Chris Weitz
The Big Kahuna-John Swanbeck
Billy Elliot-Stephen Daldry
Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)-Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu
Black Swan-Darren Aronofsky
Blindness-Fernando Meirelles
Bloody Sunday-Paul Greengrass
Blue is the Warmest Color-Abdellatif Kechiche
Blue Valentine-Derek Cianfrance
Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazahkstan-Larry Charles
Bowling for Columbine-Michael Moore
Brokeback Mountain-Ang Lee
The Broken Circle Breakdown-Felix van Groeningen
Broken Flowers-Jim Jarmusch
Bubble-Steven Soderbergh
Bully-Lee Hirsch
Burma VJ: Reporting from a Closed Country-Anders Ostergaard
Burn After Reading-Joel & Ethan Coen
Cache (aka Hidden)-Michael Haneke
Capitalism: A Love Story-Michael Moore
Capote-Bennett Miller
Carol-Todd Haynes
Casino Royale-Martin Campbell
Cast Away-Robert Zemeckis
The Cell-Tarsem
Changeling-Clint Eastwood
Chaos-Colline Serreau
Che-Steven Soderbergh
Chi-Raq-Spike Lee
Children of Men-Alfonso Cuaron
Chinese Coffee-Al Pacino
Chocolat-Lasse Hallstrom
Chop Shop-Ramin Bahrani
Chopper-Andrew Dominick
City of Gold-Laura Gabbert
The Class-Laurent Canter
Cloud Atlas-Tom Tykwer and Lana & Andy Wachowski
Clouds of Sils Maria-Olivier Assayas
Coming Home-Yimou Zhang
Confessions of a Dangerous Mind-George Clooney
The Contender-Rod Lurie
Control Room-Jehane Noujaim
The Cooler-Wayne Kramer
Crash-Paul Haggis
The Crash Reel-Lucy Walker
A Dangerous Method-David Cronenberg
The Dark Knight-Christopher Nolan
Day Night Day Night-Julia Loktev
Death Proof-Quentin Tarantino
The Departed-Martin Scorsese
The Descendants-Alexander Payne
Diamond Men-Daniel M. Cohen
Dinner Rush-Bob Giraldi
Dirty Pretty Things-Stephen Frears
Divided We Fall-Jan Hrebejk
Django Unchained-Quentin Tarantino
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly-Julian Schnabel
Doubt-John Patrick Shanley
Dr. T & the Women-Robert Altman
The Duke of Burgundy-Peter Strickland
Edmond-Stuart Gordon
An Education-Lone Scherfig
Elephant-Gus Van Sant
Encounters at the End of the World-Werner Herzog
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind-Michel Gondry
Exit Through the Gift Shop-Bansky
Fahrenheit 9/11-Michael Moore
Fantastic Mr. Fox-Wes Anderson
Far From Heaven-Todd Haynes
Finding Forrester-Gus Van Sant
Far From Heaven-Todd Haynes
Femme Fatale-Brian De Palma
A Film Unfinished-Yael Hersonski
Fish Tank-Andrea Arnold
The Five Obstructions-Jorgen Leth and Lars von Trier
The Fog of War-Errol Morris
Footnote-Joseph Cedar
Force Majeure-Rube Ostlund
The Freebie-Katie Aselton
Frida-Julie Taymor
From Hell-Albert & Allen Hughes
Frost/Nixon-Ron Howard
Frozen-Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee
Frozen River-Courtney Hunt
Ghost World-Terry Zwigoff
Ginger & Rosa-Sally Potter
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo-Niels Arden Oplev
The Girlfriend Experience-Steven Soderbergh
Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief-Alex Gibney
The Good Girl-Miguel Arteta
Good Night, and Good Luck.-George Clooney
Gosford Park-Robert Altman
Gravity-Alfonso Cuaron
The Grand Budapest Hotel-Wes Anderson
Grindhouse-Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino w/Eli Roth, Edgar Wright and Rob Zombie
Grizzly Man-Werner Herzog
Hairspray-Adam Shankman
The Handmaiden-Chan-wook Park
Hard Candy-David Slade
Heaven Knows What-Benny & Josh Safdie
Her-Spike Jonze
High Fidelity-Stephen Frears
Higher Ground-Vera Farmiga
A History of Violence-David Cronenberg
A Home at the End of the World-Michael Mayer
Hot Fuzz-Edgar Wright
Hotel Rwanda-Terry George
House of Sand and Fog-Vadim Perelman
Hugo-Martin Scorsese
The Hurt Locker-Kathryn Bigelow
The Imposter-Bart Layton
In a better World-Susanne Bier
In Bruges-Martin McDonagh
In the Bedroom-Todd Field
Incendies-Denis Villeneuve
Inception-Christopher Nolan
An Inconvenient Truth-Davis Guggenheim
The Incredibles-Brad Bird
Infernal Affairs-Andrew Lau and Alan Mak
The Informant!-Steven Soderbergh
Inglourious Basterds-Quentin Tarantino
Inside Job-Charles Ferguson
Inside Llewyn Davis-Joel & Ethan Coen
Inside Out-Pete Doctor; Co-Director: Ronnie Del Carmen
Into the Abyss-Werner Herzog
Into the Wild-Sean Penn
Invictus-Clint Eastwood
The Invisible War-Kirby Dick
Jack Goes Boating-Philip Seymour Hoffman
Juno-Jason Reitman
The Kid Stays in the Picture-Nanette Burstein and Brett Morgan
The Kid with a Bike-Jean-Luc & Luc Dardenne
The Kids Are All Right-Lisa Cholodenko
Kill Bill Volume 1-Quentin Tarantino
Kill Bill Volume 2-Quentin Tarantino
The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters-Seth Gordon
The King's Speech-Tom Hooper
Kubo and the Two Strings-Travis Knight
Lantana-Ray Lawrence
Laurel Canyon-Lisa Cholodenko
Leap Year (aka Ano Bisiesto)-Michael Rowe
Le Havre-Aki Kaurismaki
Les Miserables-Tom Hooper
Let the Fire Burn-Jason Osder
Leviathan-Andrey Zvyagintsev
Life in a Day-Kevin MacDonald
Life Itself-Steve James
Like Father, Like Son-Hirokazu Koreeda
Lila Says-Ziad Doueiri
Lincoln-Steven Spielberg
Little Children-Todd Field
Little Miss Sunshine-Jonathan Dayton & Valerie Faris
The Lives of Others-Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck
Locke-Steven Knight
The Look of Silence-Joshua Oppenheimer
The Lookout-Scott Frank
Lost in La Mancha-Keith Fulton and Louis Pepe
Love, Actually-Richard Curtis
Love is Strange-Ira Sachs
Lovely & Amazing-Nicole Holofcener
Lust, Caution-Ang Lee
Magic Mike XXL-Gregory Jacobs
Man of Wire-James Marsh
Margin Call-J.C. Chandor
Maria Full of Grace-Joshua Marston
Marie Antoinette-Sofia Coppola
Martha Marcy May Marlene-Sean Durkin
Mary and Max-Adam Elliot
Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World-Peter Weir
A Master Builder-Jonathan Demme
Match Point-Woody Allen
Me and You and Everyone We Know-Miranda July
Melinda and Melinda-Woody Allen
Me and Orson Welles-Richard Linklater
Mea Maxima Culps: Silence in the House of God-Alex Gibney
Melancholia-Lars von Trier
Memento-Christopher Nolan
The Merchant of Venice-Michael Radford
The Mermaid-Stephen Chow
Midnight in Paris-Woody Allen
Million Dollar Baby-Clint Eastwood
Mistress America-Noah Baumbach
Moebius-Kim Ki-Duk
Mommy-Xavier Dolan
Monsoon Wedding-Mira Nair
Monster-Patty Jenkins
Monsters, Inc.-Pete Doctor; Co-Director: David Silverman and Lee Unkrich
Monster's Ball-Marc Forster
More than Honey-Markus Imhoof
A Most Violent Year-J.C. Chandor
Mother-Joon-Ho Bong
Mother and Child-Rodrigo Garcia
The Motorcycle Diaries-Walter Salles
Mountains May Depart-Zhangke Jia
Mulholland Dr.-David Lynch
Mysterious Skin-Gregg Araki
The New World-Terrence Malick
Nightcrawler-Dan Gilroy
No Country for Old Men-Joel & Ethan Coen
No End in Sight-Charles Ferguson
O Brother, Where Art Thou?-Joel Coen
O.J.: Made in America-Ezra Edelman
Obvious Child-Gillian Robespierre
Our Children-Joachim Lafosse
An Oversimplification of Her Beauty-Terence Nance
Pan's Labyrinth-Guillermo Del Toro
ParaNorman-Chris Butler & Sam Fell
Passing Strange-Spike Lee
The Perks of Being a Wallflower-Stephen Chbosky
Persepolis-Marjane Satrapi
The Pianist-Roman Polanski
The Piano Teacher-Michael Haneke
Pina-Wim Wenders
Pineapple Express-David Gordon Green
The Place Beyond the Pines-Derek Cianfrance
Poetry-Chang-dong Lee
The Polar Express-Robert Zemeckis
Pollack-Ed Harris
Pride & Prejudice-Joe Wright
Proof-John Madden
The Puffy Chair-Jay Duplass
The Queen-Stephen Frears
The Queen of Versailles-Lauren Greenfield
Rampart-Oren Moverman
Ratatouille-Brad Bird
Ray-Taylor Hackford
Requiem for a Dream-Darren Aronofsky
Revolutionary Road-Sam Mendes
Ripley's Game-Liliana Caviani
Road to Perdition-Sam Mendes
Room-Lenny Abrahamson
The Royal Tenenbaums-Wes Anderson
Rush-Ron Howard
Rust and Bone-Jacques Audiard
Safety Not Guaranteed-Colin Trevorrow
Saluun-Nikhil Bhat
Saraband-Ingmar Bergman
Saved!-Brian Dannelly
Secretary-Steven Shainberg
Selma-Ava DuVernay
The Seven Five-Tiller Russell
Shallow Hal-Bobby & Peter Farrelly
Shame-Steve McQueen
The Shape of Things-Neil Labute
She's Beautiful When She's Angry-Mary Dore
Sherrybaby-Laurie Collyer
Short Term 12-Destin Daniel Cretton
Shortbus-James Michael Cameron
Shrek-Andrew Adamson and Vicky Jenson
Sicko-Michael Moore
A Simple Life-Ann Hui
Sin City-Robert Rodriguez
Sing Street-John Carney
Sita Sings the Blues-Nina Paley
Sketches of Frank Gehry-Sydney Pollack
Slumdog Millionaire-Danny Boyle
Somewhere-Sofia Coppola
The Son (Le Fils)-Jean-Pierre & Luc Dardenne
Son of Saul-Nemes Laszlo
Songs from the Second Floor-Roy Andersson
Sound of Noise-Ola Simonsson & Johannes Stjarne Nilsson
Spirited Away-Hayao Miyazaki
Spotlight-Tom McCarthy
The Squid and the Whale-Noah Baumbach
Stand Up Guys-Fisher Stevens
Standard Operating Procedure-Errol Morris
Starting Out in the Evening-Andrew Wagner
State and Main-David Mamet
The Station Agent-Tom McCarthy
Steve Jobs-Danny Boyle
Still Alice-Richard Glatzer & Wash Westmoreland
Stories We Tell-Sarah Polley
Stranger than Fiction-Marc Forster
Sugar-Ryan Fleck & Anna Boden
Sunshine State-John Sayles
Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street-Tim Burton
Synecdoche, New York-Charlie Kaufman
The Tale of the Princess Kaguya-Isao Takahata
The Tao of Steve-Jenniphr Goodman
Tape-Richard Linklater
Terri-Azazel Jacobs
Thank You for Smoking-Jason Reitman
There Will Be Blood-Paul Thomas Anderson
Thirteen-Catherine Hardwicke
This Film is Not Yet Rater-Kirby Dick
Tiny Furniture-Lena Dunham
A Touch of Sin-Zhangke Jia
Touching the Void-Kevin MacDonald
Traffic-Steven Soderberg
Trainwreck-Judd Apatow
The Tribe-Myroslav Slaboshpytskyi
The Trouble with the Truth-Jim Hemphill
Trucker-James Mottern
True Grit-Joel & Ethan Coen
Trust Me-Clark Greggg
Tupac: Resurrection-Lauren Lazin
The Twilight Samurai-Yoji Yamada
Under the Sand-Francois Ozon
Under the Skin-Jonathan Glazer
United 93-Paul Greengrass
Up in the Air-Jason Reitman
The Upside of Anger-Mike Binder
Vanilla Sky-Cameron Crowe
Venus Noire (aka Black Venus)-Abdellatif Kechiche
Vera Drake-Mike Leigh
Vicky Cristina Barcelona-Woody Allen
The Visitor-Tom McCarthy
Volver-Pedro Almodovar
Waiting for 'Superman'-Davis Guggenheim
Waking Life-Richard Linklater
Watchmen-Zach Snyder
We Need to Talk About Kevin-Lynne Ramsay
Welcome to Leith-Michael Beach Nichols & Christopher K. Walker
Werckmeister Harmonies-Bela Tarr
What Maisie Knew-Scott McGehee & David Siegel
When Marnie Was There-Hiromasa Yonebayashi
When Will I Be Loved-James Toback
Where the Truth Lies-Atom Egoyan
Whiplash-Damian Chazelle
Wild-Jean-Marc Vallee
Wild Tales-Damian Szifron
Winter's Bone-Debra Granik
The Wolf of Wall Street-Martin Scorsese
Wonder Boys-Curtis Hanson
Wreck-It Ralph-Rich Moore
The Wrestler-Danny Aronofsky
XXY-Lucia Puenzo
Y Tu Mama Tambien-Alfonso Cuaron
Yes-Sally Potter
Yi Yi-Edward Yang
You Can Count on Me-Kenneth Lonergan
Young Adult-Jason Reitman
Youth-Paolo Sorrentino
Zatoichi: The Blind Swordsman-Takeshi Kitano
Zodiac-David Fincher
Zombieland-Ruben Fleischer


Saturday, June 10, 2017

MOVIE REVIEWS #136: "DOCTOR STRANGE", "MISS PEREGRINE'S HOME FOR PECULIAR CHILDREN", "10 CLOVERFIELD LANE", "JASON BOURNE", "STORKS", "THE LEGEND OF TARZAN", "DON'T THINK TWICE", "LONG WAY NORTH", "OPERATION AVALANCHE", "DANCER", "MOUNTAIN MEN", and "JAFAR PANAHI'S TAXI"!

I know, I know, I've been ridiculously behind schedule. Even Facebook has informed me that 210 people who like this blog's Facebook page haven't heard from  me in a while and think I should write a post. Which is strange considering I have 262 people who like my Facebook post, so I don't know what the other 52 people are thinking, but anyway, I digress. Yes, I've been distracted. I've have some family issues that I'm not gonna talk about at this time, that have taken up a major part of my attention recently. It's not easy, and it's still something that I'm struggling with, but...- yeah, it's distracted me from several aspects of my daily life and work, including but not limited to this blog, and to my writing work in general. In the future I might discuss it, but for the moment, I'm just gonna apologize and let you know that there's a decent chance that I might be delayed with my blogs for a little while longer than I would prefer, so that's something that might happen, and that's thankfully, not all in part due to the fact that due to my family issues, but it's not gonna help.

Anyway, since it has been so long since my last Movie Reviews post, I've seen more than I've reviewing, not much of particular note, although the documentary "Our Nixon" was particularly, eh, what's-the-word, timely. I did find it interesting that Ehrlichman, Halderman and Chapin basically walked around with Super 8 cameras recording as much as we do with our camera phones these days, while they were organizing the Watergate and Ellsberg break-ins and cover-ups and scandals, and-eh, all the other shit. I will say that they seem, smarter and less diluted in their worshiping of Nixon than Trump's minions, but of course, you can actually make a decent argument for Nixon, since there were a few accomplishments in his Presidency. The best film I've seen was the Czech New Wave film, "Daisies", which I might write about sooner than later, elsewise. A couple other scattered indies from earlier this decade, "The Exploding Girl" and "Falling Overnight", were pretty good especially the former. One of the real interesting ones was "Generation Iron", a documentary about body building that was built as the spiritual sequel to "Pumping Iron", which is one of those movies that I kept meaning to get to, but something kept getting in the way. It is a perversely fascinating sport, how they basically shape their bodies like it's clay or sculpture. It's bizarre and fascinating and scientific, and makes me find it even more bizarre that Vince McMahon once tried to take the sport and promote it to kids. Yeah, remember that weird thing? What the hell was he thinking? (Sigh)

Anyway, no more stalling, let's get to this long-delayed edition of our MOVIE REVIEWS, starting with the Oscar-Nominated features "Doctor Strange", and "Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children"!


DOCTOR STRANGE (2016) Director: Scott Derrickson

★★★1/2



(Sigh) Okay, which Marvel is this?

"Doctor Strange"

Another one, I've never fucking heard of! (Sigh) You know what we really need, is a "Brenda Starr" movie! Seriously, all the damn superheroes and reboots of comics, where the hell's our "Brenda Starr, Reporter", movie! No, not the Brooke Shields one, I mean, a real one! A reboot of that would be awesome! (Sigh)

Anyway, "Doctor Strange" the latest in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, a term that I really wish I didn't have to use, and the Doctor, Dr. Steven Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) is an actual doctor, and really named Strange. Anyway, Dr. Strange is a high-profile and uber-talented brain and neurosurgeon, who, thanks to, stupidity, gets in an accident, He loses several nerves in his hands and struggles through recovery, despite the best efforts of Christine (Rachel McAdams) his ex-girlfriend and fellow doctor. This leads him to seek out an alternative method of healing and on the advice of a mysterious guy named Pangborn (Benjamin Bratt) who survived a paralyzing spinal injury, he goes to Kathmandu and seeks out The Ancient One (Tilda Swinton) and she teaches him, um,- well, she's basically Morpheus and this whole world is basically "The Matrix" with the rules of "Inception" at play, which I guess means, the who MCU has-, oh for fuck's sake...- anyway, He ends up learning, something spiritual, I'm not even pretend to understand it, but basically, he has the power to, do anything it seems. Create time loops travel to other dimensions, etc. etc. Hey, do we need the rest of the Avengers if we have this guy, he seems pretty good? Apparently he only fights people from other dimensions who are attack Earth in our dimension or universe, or something,... Look, I'm not gonna say it makes any sense while watching it either, but you know, I bought into it. Doctor Strange is one of the more interesting characters Marvel's put out there. I'm not sure why or how he's so willing to abandon his practice just to be a mystic wizard, essentially; I mean, he can still be a consultant and a doctor, not just a surgeon. Plus he can astral project himself into another dimension, so he can talk to the dead before they die, while they're on the operating table. Anyway, he has to stop, Kaecillius, (Mads Mikkelsen) who's a former protege of The Ancient One, who began to distrust him and turned to her rival, Dormammu, who's close to taking over Earth, and to be fair, there's some pretty good battles and special effects here. I mean, it's not that far progress from what "Inception" did, but it was all still really amazing. There's a lot of good technical craft in the film, and Cumberbatch is well-cast here, as is Swinton. Chiwetel Ejiofor has an odd role as a fellow Ancient One protege named Mondo, who becomes disillusioned after a liar reveal about The Ancient One comes out, (Oh, and I'm introducing new rule, half-stars off for bad unnecessary and stupid post-credits scenes, and this movie has, one, and a half of them.) Honestly, I guess, in hindsight, everything gets so bogged down in it's ultimate mysteriousness regarding the world, the powers, the universes, etc., that it's a lot to take in, and in hindsight, I can think through the flaws and really question more, but still, "Doctor Strange" is one of the better and more interesting Marvel films in a while, and has a fascinating character at it's center. I wish I understood more of it, but, can't have everything. It's more impressive to absorb and behold than it might hold up as a story, but, I think that's worth a lot when it's done this well.


MISS PEREGRINE'S HOME FOR PECULIAR CHILDREN (2016) Director: Tim Burton

★1/2




I have several thought in regards to "Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children", a couple of them, were one that I personally couldn't escape. The first one is Tim Burton. Now, I know people watch Tim Burton movies, not for the plot or the story, but for the visuals, this is annoying as hell to me, 'cause I usually just feel like I'm getting something that looks pretty but has so little substance to it that I find myself cold. But, this is the first time I genuinely started coming to a different possible concluding thought, "Is Tim Burton's visual style, actually any good?"

I know it's got an appeal, but is it actually good? I'm told it is, and things like the pop culturization of some of his properties like "Beetlejuice" and "The Nightmare Before Christmas", constantly try to inform me that it is, but, actually, is it? I'm not sure anymore. Honestly, I never did understand the appeal, and I usually disguarded that to being not something I liked but could appreciate on it's own, but maybe not. Maybe I've overestimated it all this time. Maybe not, it's hard to put myself back to when he started with his unique look and tones when he first started making films, although I rarely thought any of those films were any good, and now that there's clearly works of art out there that might be partially inspired by his work, like this latest, "Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children", based on a chidren's novel by Ransom Riggs, maybe we should re-evaluate and reconsider Burton's aesthetics.

"Miss Peregrine's..." is set up almost as perfectly for Burton's eye as "Sweeney Todd..." was, except it's all of the bad traits of Tim Burton. The dying parent, the normal character entering a mysterious world, the older character informing about the world, that many don't believe,- oh God, this movie basically started with "Big Fish", which is by far Burton's worst and most atrocious film, (And to those defend that one, seriously, what the hell? That movie's terrible. And the reveal at the end is stupid, 'cause it doesn't change anything, in fact, if anything it makes it worst. The whole thing is about the son trying to love the dying father no matter whether his stories are true, and then, after he accomplishes that, they decide to make it all true, and that's somehow magical, better? What the fuck!?) and then tried to turn it into "Alice in Wonderland".

This one is about, a mysterious home for children who have certain abilities that make it difficult to go along in the outside world. One's invisible, one sets things on fire, one makes things grow quickly, one projects images in his eyes,... the only real important one is Emma (Ella Purnell) who can fly away when she doesn't wear lead shoes. The place is overseen by Miss Peregrine (Eva Green) who can turn into a bird, naturally. Anyway, the main character, Jake (Asa Butterfield) hears about this place from his dying grandfather, (Terence Stamp) and he's determined to prove that the stories weren't made up. And at some point, when his parents (Chris O'Dowd and Kim Dickens) take him to this island, he gets transported back to the time period, which was WWII era, and the other Peculiar Children want him to stay. Also, there's a bad guy played by Samuel L. Jackson, although he should've been played by Allison Janney, who has one memorable scene in this movie that's almost makes it worth watching.

Basically what these kind of movies boil down to, is whether or not you buy that the world this character's going into, is worth saving, or believable or worth caring about. It's a difficult story to pull off, and filmmakers have been screwing it up since "You Can't Take It With You", Frank Capra's worst movie, (And a terrible play) and I guess I can appreciate the effort, but look at something like "Avatar", at least, for the first ninety minutes before that film got stupid, it really created a world, a universe, interesting rules, interesting characters to care about, really high stakes, visually, something amazing that we hadn't seen before or much of since, It took it's time to earn it's trust, and did it well with the new world and getting us to care and imagine it. This home for peculiar children, it's-um, um, well, apparently somebody's idea of a legitimate fantasy world, not mine, but, somebody's, I guess. Maybe it works in the book, but visually, it doesn't do it for me. It is a lot to ask me to care about these characters that this boy cares about, because his dead grandfather cared about them, and that may or may not all be in the boy's head, and it's not even particularly visually interesting, even by Burton standards. I'd rather see him make "Dark Shadows 2" than this, at least that was a kaleidoscope of imagery that was so over-the-top and random that I was at least interested to see whatever it was that was on the screen next.. I get why it appealed to him, but Burton has a tendency to only storytelling-wise be as good as his material anyway, and I have doubts that this was ever really good material. People proclaim the book to originally have very Burtonesque traits and while that's probably true, I wonder if those traits are worth anything. The problem with most of Burton's lesser works is that he's often trying to be strange, just to be strange. Maybe there's an interesting story or reason why his characters are strange, but half the time there isn't and the other half of the time he barely focuses on that aspect. Another motif in his storytelling, and more importantly this firm belief that magical fantastical stories can be real. Which is plausible, you can certainly claim that they're real in his mind, but that doesn't necessarily translate as well to others. This doesn't translate in adaptation well. I have no desire to ever give a damn about any of these characters and frankly, blame the original material all you want, Burton should be able to fix that at least, and he didn't.


10 CLOVERFIELD LANE (2016)
Director: Dan Trachtenberg

★★



Well, this movie is apparently a sequel to "Cloverfield", a movie that, this film has basically nothing in common with and has nothing to do with. And if anything, knowing the movie is a sequel means that, it gives away the big dramatic plot-twist mystery of the entire film, 'cause we have the knowledge of the first movie; so making this a spiritual successor, was in fact completely detrimental to anything the movie had going for it. (Tongue click, mocking double thumbs up) Good job there, Producers! (Tongue clicks, eye roll) Who did produce this anyway? (Checking IMDB, sighs, rolls eye) J.J. Abrams. I don't even know why I'm surprised.

Okay, admittedly there is a reason for this; basically, the movie was not developed as a sequel to "Cloverfield" but is positioned as a spiritual one. (Explain that process) This originated as a script called "The Cellar" that a couple young writers named Josh Campbell and Matthew Stuecker got on the Blacklist at some point. Abrams bought the rights, found a talented young first-time filmmaker to make it, and even got Damien Chazelle, yes, that Damien Chazelle, to do some touches on the script. So, basically this film, coincides with "Cloverfield", or at least taking place in the universe, but yeah, this is essentially the kinda of thing that lead to horrible multiverse fan-fiction.

So, how's the movie as is? Well, it probably suffers a little, oddly enough from being over-budget. The movie, takes place almost entirely within on room, The main character is Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) who gets into a car accident and awakes in the bunker of Howard (John Goodman), one of those, well, Amy Nicholson's review on MTV.com, and by the way, she's quickly becoming one of my favorite movie reviewers, describes Goodman as a conspiracy madman; I'm not sure I agree with that characterization. He's clearly not mad. Maybe in some version of the script it was, but, well, A. We know what universe we're in, so we know he's not entirely wrong, but B. there's a lot of indication that he might know and be more prepared than some for the upcoming events. He created a pretty-good bunker designed to survive for quite a while in case the outside air is toxic. He does have a lowly assistant, Emmett (John Gallagher, Jr.) who I believe helped with the building of it, and works on the systems and food. She's already injured by the accident, and there's definitely clear signs that something went wrong, and something's wrong outside, but eventually there's clues that it might not be what Howard claims. Basically he's being slightly over-protective for something that probably needs a lot of protection from, however it might not be the right approach. Of course, I don't know what the best course of action is when a cloverfield takes over Manhattan either, so.... If this was, just an unrelated decent, indy film with good actors and no obvious-in-the-title forced marriage to "Cloverfield", which btw, I actually did like as a movie enough to recommend, eh, I'd probably give this a pass, but not a big one. There's clearly talent all around, but ultimately the film just seems average. I can think of about half a dozen similar locked-in Indy horrors off the top of my head, and it's, about average comparatively, some better, some worst, although I do like the indications the ending leaves and makes me, somewhat curious about what could be a next chapter to this story. It's also not terribly written. You have some smart characters, who are prone to making mistakes in the situation, but I can't think of anything off-hand that was particularly dumb that they did.

One of the things that surprised me about the film's popularity and success, was a minor push for John Goodman to receive an Oscar nomination for Supporting Actor. To that I have to ask, uh, why exactly? Um, I-eh, well, it's not like John Goodman gives a bad performance here; he never has and probably he never will, but I'm struggling to see why people thought this was a special performance, especially for Goodman, who, has probably given us undeservedly overlooked Oscar-worthy performances in films going back to "Barton Fink" and "Born Yesterday", (And I didn't even like that "Born Yesterday" remake, but he was damn good in it). I fail to see why this was special. I would've nominated him for "Red State", but I thought of this performance, which is good; everybody's good here by the way. It's an okay ensemble horror piece, but I can't think of other better roles he's done in the recent past.


JASON BOURNE (2016) Director: Paul Greengrass

★★★★



I can't imagine anybody making a bad Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) movie. The character is just too interesting for that to truly happen. Hell, I didn't even hate "The Bourne Legacy" and that had nothing to do with "Jason Bourne". And I didn't even want this movie, the trilogy was pretty complete as it, and was damn good. I didn't think I needed or wanted a new "Mad Max", either, so, why not give "Jason Bourne" another shot, and once again show us of how smart and intelligent this franchise is. Sure, it's been awhile, but, like Tom Ripley, there's probably an infinite amount of stories you can do with this character, and numerous way and times to look on him and see what he's doing now. The big conflict, is simply the fact that Bourne is the ultimate wild card. A trained CIA assassin, who's capable of taking down the country with the information he knows, except for the fact that he doesn't. He's got amnesia and is only gradually learning why he is so unusually capable and skillful at killing people, and evading capture and death himself. This one, now 14 years after the events of the last film, Bourne is a drifter in Europe, mostly doing some under the radar things like bare-knuckle boxing to earn money and evade capture, which makes sense. They're still aware and keeping an eye on him at the CIA, but he's basically a sleeper cell who isn't activated, until he is. This time, by Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles, returning in, what has sadly become her most memorable film role, huh. Remember when she was the Julia Roberts? Wow, that didn't pan out, did it.) What's she doing, well, something bad. Basically, she's become a freelance hacker, and is hacking into the CIA, because, alas, they're doing something stupid, restarting the Treadstone Program that created Jason. She's public enemy number one, and Bourne is the only one who can do anything, so he's suddenly activated. Also, his father's involved, (Gregg Henry, in flashback) 'cause apparently, not only was he the reason he was recruited into Treadstone, he, in some manner was involved in creating it. Naturally, the CIA, led this time be Director Robert Dewey (Tommy Lee Jones) and this time, there's somebody underneath, who, instead of killing Bourne, is intrigued by the possibility of using him and having him return to the CIA, Heather Lee (Alicia Vikander). So, instead of the normal cat-and-mouse CIA vs. Bourne, we have a differing story of Cat vs. Cat, fighting over the mouse, who, neither one of them can necessarily catch.  There's also a, let's called him a hybrid Assange meets Zuckerberg character, Aaron Kalloor (Riz Ahmed) who's made a deal with the CIA because he runs a Cyber Security Program, that...- well, if you've seen much of the news on this, you probably know where that's going, but that's fine. There's also a second wild card, just known as Asset (Vincent Cassel) a fellow assassin who wants to kill Bourne,for personal reasons. This is the weakest of the Matt Damon-led "Jason Bourne" but it's still not a bad one. It's highly entertaining, there's some great double-crossing and sideways manipulation from all fronts, the action scenes are still as good as ever, including a really elaborate car chase sequence through Las Vegas that's epic, and Jason Bourne is as fascinating an enigma as ever. Did I need, this movie, no, but I don't really any James Bond either other than "From Russia with Love", "Goldfinger" and "Casino Royale" in my mind, so, why not a new Jason Bourne story? This is a fun, delightful entertaining popcorn movie, and nothing more, and surprisingly, considering how many big action movie are out there now, especially with superhero film, you don't actually get that kind of fun film that often. Wonderful breath of fresh air, "Jason Bourne", don't know why I ever doubt this franchise. Remind me never to do that again. 



STORKS (2016) Directors: Nicholas Stoller and Doug Sweetland





The first thing I think about with "Storks" is how it gave me a gigantic literal migraine headache. This amalgam of a movie, is truly painful to sit through. It is both, way too long, and yet, edited with Michael Bay-esque quick cutting nonsensical pace, that everything goes by you too fast to react to it. It's-, (Sigh), well, it's the plot from "Monsters, Inc.", it's the conceit of "The Secret Life of Pets", well, not really, but dumb enough-, I mean, close enough. It's the insider jokes of "Shrek", it's the third-wall breaking jokes of somebody who liked "Community" way too much and doesn't understand when to fucking stop, the zaniness of "The Emperor's New Groove", the random pop songs of a Dr. Suess movie, plus ten or twelve other things. On top of all that, it's just, noise. It's, big-eyed computer animated characters going through their computer-animated adventure because-, um, well, just because. I mean, they know all the steps of a good movie, and some concept of how to put them together, but the end result, is something so soulless. It's robotic. It's animation on cruise control. It's every horrible thing that people think about when people talk about how animation is quote-unquore, "Just For Kids". That what this movie feels like, like a bunch of people trying to make a movie for kids, and think that because it's for kids that there's nothing else you need to do. (Sigh)

Alright, so "Storks" once upon a time, only delivered babies. Now, they deliver everything else after one stork decided to get out of the baby delivering service and became, well, essentially, just Amazon drones. I'm-, I'm not even kidding. They work for Hunter (Kelsey Grammar) who runs Cornerstore.com, a stork delivery service that delivers everything, excepts babies, after an incident involving a stork names Jasper, (Danny Trejo) who lost the beacon for the address of the Orphan Tulip (Katie Crown) who's now 18 years old, and a detriment to the success of the store, and now, Junior (Andy Samberg) is supposed to fire her, in order for him to become Boss, but instead,  doesn't and this leads to her opening a letter for a baby request from Nate (Anton Starkman) the young son of workaholic parents Henry & Sarah (Ty Burrell and Jennifer Aniston) and now, they have a baby to deliver on the down-low and Junior's arms in a sling, but luckily, she's invented a few flying machines, that sorta work.

The humor in this movie, it's-, very self-referential, but not in a way that's funny. It's just all very quick, and not quick enough for us to laugh. I think it's because there's not enough time and energy on the characters, and-, well, even then, I'm not sure some of these jokes would work. There's one funny sequence where Junior has to fight off a bunch of penguins, all of them try to fight silently to not wake the baby, but other than that, it's just a hodgepodge of references. Jokes are thrown in everywhere whether they're needed or not, there's a few really annoying characters and some jokes are just surreal for the sake surreal jokes. I feel like it's trying to be a Zucker Brothers movie like "Airplane!" or something, but it's also trying to have a heart and make some grand statement about babies, being, I don't know, wonderful? (Sigh) Do kids even get this joke now? In the internet age, I think even the younger, younger kids don't buy the stork thing, and...- (Shrugs) I don't know. This film was the brainchild of Nicholas Stoller, who's most know for live-action comedies, like directing "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" and it's sequel spinoff film,"Get Him to the Greek", both of which I liked, but he's mostly been rather pedestrian since then with the "Neighbors" films; I guess he's talented. He used some improvisation for this film, among the actors, not something done normally for animation, but, I don't see any problem with it, but it leads to, using a lot of material and jokes, too much to care about anybody or anything, and it's not like this film was taking it's story seriously to begin with. (Sigh)

You know, "Inside Out" makes me cry every time I watch it. "Anomalisa" was inspiring to me on a personal, visceral level, "Kubo and the Two Strings" showed me storytelling genius that I didn't think was possible, hell, even "Zootopia", which I wasn't even a fan of was trying hard, really hard to inspire and change minds and confront the ills of the world at large and you can see it on the screen that somebody cared and gave a shit at what they were putting out onto the world. "Storks" just makes me wish I was watching one of those movies instead. This is painful. I wasn't kidding about the headache, this movie made me take two Excedrin when I was watching it. This doesn't feel like it was a desired project or that care was put into the idea, or that somebody who has created some genuinely funny films in the past was involved with it. It's not even that the jokes aren't funny, it's that the movie doesn't make me want to laugh. I feel like I've seen this before, many times before, come up with a cute generic concept. Cars, birds, planes, storks, and then, throw in a bunch of jokes, the human outsider, the evil corporate boss-, there's literally nothing here that I haven't seen somewhere else before and done better and with more meaning to it. That's the biggest crime, and especially for an animated movie, I never once felt that this movie was made with any emotional pull to it. There's a standard of animation that you have to meet now, and this is just not acceptable. It's a first draft idea, that's not fleshed out, enough. It's jokes instead of storytelling. It's a parody/spoof of, nothing in particular. It's just sound and noise signifying nothing. And if that's all you want it do, just shut up your damn kids who, the ones too young and on too much sugar to get any of the jokes for another ten years then fine, but why not that entertain them with something actually great and important and gonna be remembered and looked back on fondly when they become adults instead?


THE LEGEND OF TARZAN (2016) Director: David Yates





I'm sorry, we're we asking for a new "Tarzan" movie? Actually-, no strike that, this isn't even Tarzan, this is a new Greystoke movie, technically. I've never fully been able to finish that "Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan" film from the early eighties, that's mostly famous now for people who hate Andie MacDowell and like to point out that Glenn Close dubbed her voice in it, because she couldn't pull of a British accent. And because Robert Towne's dog received an Oscar nomination for it. (Dead serious, look it up!) I don't remember liking or getting much of that film. Tarzan's one of the most iconic of film and literary characters, and yet strangely, there aren't that man good version of him. In either form actually. There's actually quite a few Tarzan novels, but, I can't find too many people who really recommend more than a couple of them and film-wise, eh, well, there's the Johnny Weismuller movies, that, kinda fit into the same camp appeal as say, "King Kong", but, I'd argue there really hadn't been a really good "Tarzan" until the Disney film came out, which I consider one of Disney's most underrated animated films. But, that was an interesting take on Tarzan, and one that seriously benefitted from being animated. It's one of Disney's most technically amazing hand-drawn pieces of animation. It provided a new look and take on the Tarzan story, and the animation, especially when he's swinging through the trees, is just spectacular. Really gives us this amazing sense of a human who's become not only an ape, but a human who's mastered the ways of being an ape.

This film? I have no idea why this exists. It's a mess to begin with, and then trying to make sense or care about any of this...- So, John Clayton, aka Tarzan (Alexander Skarsgard, who I will concede is great casting.) is now, a the proper Fifth Earl of Greystoke, It's ten years after him and Jane Porter have left the Jungle and now apparently, the Natives-, which is already a bit of a red flag in a Tarzan story, but I double-checked, there are a few stories where Tarzan's got Natives in it. 'cause this one takes place in the jungles of the Congo, which, again, I'm tipping my head at, 'cause geographically that's a stretch, but alright, and there's a Belgium envoy, Leon Rom (Christoph Waltz, because of course it is) instead of working on building the modern infrastructure and there's a Colonialism parable, blah, blah, blah, and he's persuaded to go back, because of the enslaved treatment of the Natives there, by George Washington Williams (Samuel L. Jackson) who is a real guy in history by the way, not from the novels, so, take that for what you will, and whatever universe this is. And there's also a native leader, Chief Mbongo (Djimon Hounsou, who really deserves better) who makes a deal with Leon for the diamond as long as he gets Tarzan, because he has a grudge. (Sigh)

There's both a lot going on here, and not much at all going on here. A lot of plot, without really any, history we have with these characters. You know, what this feels like? This feels like watching a straight-to-DVD sequel to an old movie, that you haven't seen the first one of? So, it's like an entire new cast, and extra characters you don't know about, and because it's Tarzan, we're sort supposed to know, but you actually don't. I mean, this movie is about a gratuitous nude scene away from that, which come to think of it, why not have one; it is Tarzan? In fact, that's one of the problems, it doesn't seem or look like Tarzan. I know there's quite a few other Tarzan tales, but-, there's a reason we don't recall them offhand. In terms of sequel novels, they're not exactly "Huckleberry Finn", you know? Anyway, the pointlessness of the need for this movie is only matched by my inability to care about anything on screen. It's a Tarzan movie that's about anything, but Tarzan, and not much that matters after that. Tarzan's a character who lived his entire life, thinking he's one species, to find out he's another; he's one of the most interesting characters in the 20th Century literature, truly. And, here he is, with, none of the aspects that make him Tarzan, being prevalent?! I don't get it.


DON'T THINK TWICE (2016) Director: Mike Birbiglia

★★★★1/2




I think some people don't fully understand what exactly, Improv, is. They know, it's making up things off the top of your head, but there's more to it than that. It's an art form in or itself, and a distinctly American one at that, created by legendary names like Severn Darden, Del Close, on the stage in Chicago that would become the Second City. Yet, the most famous thing that people recognize as Improv, "Who's Line Is It Anyway?" not only comes from Great Britain, but is probably not the best place to truly learn the art form, or what exactly Improv is. It's not simply a matter, of making stuff up, you're still creating a scene. And then, refining it; it's a writing style above anything else. It's also an acting exercise, with specific rules and games, and there is a structure involved. It takes practice. "Don't Think Twice" is not only a good general rule for Improv, but also probably the best film I can remember about the performers of the art form. Granted the only other one I can think of, was a rare 2007 film called "Sketch" that I had to judge for a film festival, and did not give a good review to. The movie begins with this brief lesson in sketch, it even shows rare footage of one of my favorite classic Second City sketches being performed, "Football Comes to the University of Chicago", which was about a coach trying to teach football to high-end academics who hadn't played the game. (I had that sketch on a CD as apart of a Second City Anniversary book that I eventually gave to my cousin as a gift. This film about a New York City sketch troupe,) This group, is called "The Commune" and it's current roster includes, Samantha (Gillian Jacobs) Miles (Mike Birbiglia), Allison (Kate Micucci), Lindsay (Tami Sagher), Jack (Keegan-Michael Key) and Bill (Chris Gethard). The group is fairly well-known and popular, Miles is the leader, Samantha the emcee, and while normally, they're doing well, Jack, who's also Samantha's boyfriend, has a tendency to suddenly burst into some of his impressions and characters, which sounds like something that's normal and okay, but if you actually know sketch comedy, it isn't. During one show, when a "Weekend Live" scout is on-hand, Jack goes into his Obama. This angers the group, but it gets him and Samantha auditions, and Jack makes the show, forcing him to leave the long-time upstart group. Soon enough, he ends up becoming a pretty big star on the obvious "SNL" stand-in show, and the group's dynamics begin to crumble. For one thing, one of them is more famous, and now the audience comes to see him redo the sketches and characters from the show. For another, others in the group are either more devoted to sketch and/or are more obsessed with being famous than others. Outside the stage, the group is close, but perhaps not as close as they thought. Miles still lives, in basically a dorm that's he's furnished out of his parents' basement, and he takes some of his female students there at times, and constantly begs Jack to get a writing gig. Allison is a cartoonist who's been creating a comic book for years, but is too shy to send it in. Bill's in his '40s and after his father has a life-threatening motorcycle accident, begins to shift his priorities away from the group. Samantha and Jack's relationship also begins to get strained as his level of fame rises, and she realizes some truths about the relationship that Jack can't see at the moment. Lindsay's a bit of the odd-one-out, since she actually comes from a rich background and doesn't really need the money or fame, but seems to choose the life of an Improv actor anyway. Eventually, one by one, the group becomes doomed to dissipate and end. The film was directed by Mike Birbiglia, a stand-up comic, who found some success as an actor sneaking into the post-Mumblcore scene, before finally breaking as a comic with his TV Special "My Girlfriend's Boyfriend", but it was his directorial feature debut, "Sleepwalk with Me" that I first noticed him, a seriously underrated film about a very down-on-his-luck stand-up comic, who suddenly becomes popular after devoting more to his craft which including talking about his life and his girlfriend played by Lauren Ambrose. "Don't Think Twice" is essentially another movie about what happens when a comedian becomes famous and dealing with that fame, and if I have to choose, I probably prefer his first films, but both of them are really good comedy-dramas on the subject.  This is a really great actors' film and the actors who are all skilled in sketch are all really strong. Gillian Jacobs in particular, has one scene, that, I know, in my mind, doesn't technically work within the universe of the film, mainly because I do study this field and no what would happen if a situation like the one she's in would've actually occurred but, it's so touching and sad. She's alone on stage, performing as the rest of The Commune have not shown up for what's inevitably their last show, and suddenly she talks about how bad her day's been, and when it seems like she's about to explode, she instead, begins an Improv, a one-person Improv, where she's playing all the parts of all the other troupe members, and the scene is that she's fallen down into a well, and despite everything being wrong, she keeps telling everyone that she's fine, and that things are okay. This is the kind of scene that works on so many levels, it's a great monologue, it's a great acting scene, it's a great scene to teach people how to use one's emotions to be creative,... it's just beautiful. I honestly didn't know she had that scene in her. "Don't Think Twice" both celebrates Improv and also shows the more straining and difficult side of being in that part of the entertainment industry, especially when, unlike most of your heroes, they're never actually gonna achieve the success and fame that one might dream of. Every couple years, I always try to coax one of my friends, who is trained in Improv and I've worked with, to screw both of our current jobs and lives and start a troupe somewhere. You'd think a film like this would be a deterrent from that idea, but oddly, it's actually inspiring enough that I wouldn't be surprised if more Improv troupes come out of this film.


LONG WAY NORTH (2016) Director: Remi Chaye

★★★



So, there's a popular term within certain film analyst circles that I generally don't use, "Uncanny Valley". For those unfamiliar, (raises hand) it's a term that dates back, to the '70s and usually is used in reference to how robots can seem more humanlike in appearance, and how, at some point, they become, too humanlike and creepy to some, but most of the time now, this is a terms used to reference animation, specifically computer-generated animation, particularly when it comes to human characters being depicted through human animation. And the reason, I don't use that term, is, that, I don't get it. People keep telling me, it's a thing, and they keep showing me examples of how exhibit A is creepy, or the human characters in this animated film or that animated film are too disturbing, or whatever....- but, I usually disagree. No, check that, I've always disagree. I genuinely don't know where they're coming from with this. Maybe I'm just more willing to accept it, whatever it is, because animation is essentially world-building and if they create a world where the characters look like that, than that's fine with me, and considering I can barely write my name legibly, I'm generally impressed by computer animation. I love, the human characters in "The Polar Express" or "Beowulf," or whatever. So, I-eh, I never understood this claim or phenomenon. That said, "Long Way North", might've come the closest to ever changing my mind. "Long Way North", the debut feature from French animator Remi Chaye, who's most know for being the Head of Story on Tomm Moore's "The Secret of Kells", is-eh, interesting. I can't tell exactly what I don't quite enjoy about it, apparently, something he did, was remove the outline of the images, which allowed the colors to pop off the screen, especially the gold and yellows conflicted with the browns. The movie is both too muted and too bright, especially considering it's use of shadows, and I don't know why that is. Maybe the flatness of the face, for what otherwise seems like it could've been hand-drawn rotoscope'd look, but, the approach is just, somewhat off at times. This is almost the first time I can say I sorta understand what an "Uncanny Valley" effect is. That said, "Long Way North", is an intriguing animated feature. I think technically we're calling this a French film, but it takes place in Russia, around the 1880s. St. Petersburg. Eh, my Russian history was a bit weak, but I do know that, this was a pretty aristocratic and lavish time for Russia, right after the era of Alexander II, who made several reforms to the government after the Crimean War, and then, his son Alexander III took over and started screwing everything up, but we're talking about explorations, interestingly enough. And at this point, there was one mythical journey left, and that was the Northwest Passage. See, the journey to reach the other side of the world, was a big one, and after Columbus, found out that, "Oh, shit! There's two fucking continents in the way, can't go that way, so straight off the edge of the planet is gonna do it." (paraphrasing) The next thing to figure out, was, if there was another way. Now, the common one that people tried to find, was, the Northwest Passage, which on one hand makes sense, going over the top of the globe is less distance than across two fucking Oceans, the problem, that they inevitable found out, was that, it was fucking cold. (Also, the Northwest Passage is too hard to penetrate, you gotta maneuver around several small islands and the water's turning to ice...- it's a mess. So, it's not uncommon, for a ship, to get lost up there, and here, one ship does that, the Davai, which is captained by Oloukaine, and has been missing from it's North Pole expedition for two years. Sacha (Christa) is his young granddaughter who's determined to find him, and believes that he took a different path than the one everyone else believes they did. There's a reward out for him, but after, running away from a ball, literally, and hiding out by the Sea, getting some work as a waitress, which is itself daunting, since she's an aristocrat to begin with, so she has to prove herself, for as a young woman with hard labor, and then, when she finally gets somebody, Captain Lund to go out in the death of Winter and seek out the Davai, she has to earn herself as a sailor. I'm of two minds on this film, I'm definitely recommending it, it's too interesting to not recommend, but I do suspect that there's a better story to tell than this. It's structure like an action-adventure story, but the story tends to meandering mostly through the inner journey of Sacha as she discovers what she can and can't do. It's simple, but I guess it's fine. The animation is pretty, it just seems and feels like something's awkward about it, and I can't quite put my finger on why it bugs me, but, it does. I actually wonder if this wouldn't have done better and been more interesting as a live-action movie, in fact, I can think of a few that aren't that dissimilar., both versions of "True Grit" come to mind, and a sea story of this nature, would probably be interesting in live-action. In animation, I think it loses a lot of the mythic qualities that would make it exciting oddly enough. I'm not gonna pan it for that, but I still mostly look at "Long Way North" mainly as a missed opportunity.


OPERATION AVALANCHE (2016) Director: Matt Johnson

★★★



Let's get the obvious out of the way, NO THE MOON LANDING WASN"T FAKED OR STAGED! And any and all who make idiotic arguments to the contrary, should be beaten to death with a very large moon rock! (Mocking tone) "Look, look, the flag is waving!" NO IT FUCKING WASN'T, that's not the actual footage, it wasn't shot on a soundstage and yes, we went back several times! Five other times to be exact. Oh, and just to get this bit of annoyance from the movie "Operation Avalanche" out of the way, the feather and the hammer was not dropped on the Apollo 11 mission, it was dropped on Apollo 15, by David Scott! (Frustrated sigh)

Look, I don't think the filmmakers of "Operation Avalanche" believe any of the conspiracy junk that has been popular on the moonlanding, in fact that they brought that up and some have tried to claim that that footage was also faked, tells me that they probably know better than anyone how real it was.The thing is, I bring it up because I know the wrong people will probably note this film as some existential example of how it wasn't fraudulent, or some bullshit like that, so.... Outside of that, thought dripping in my head throughout the film, I kinda enjoyed this. Shot, partly with some dubious filmmaking, which included the filmmakers going to NASA disguised as a documentary film crew, "Operation Avalanche" was Matt Johnson's thesis film, where him and co-writer Owen Williams star as, eh, Matt Johnson and Owen Williams, low-level CIA agents who go undercover to NASA, as documentary filmmakers, to seek out, a Soviet spy. There's a little art imitating life imitating art here. They had previous worked on a secret mission to check whether Stanley Kubrick was a spy, because of him having made "Dr. Strangelove....", they convince their superior to go undercover as bumbling NET Filmmakers, (Oh, that's an old reference nobody will get besides me, uh, NET or National Eductaion Television, was what PBS was called before 1970.) Anyway, they don't necessarily find the spy per se, but they do find out that NASA doesn't have the ability to land on the moon for another four years, and they run into a plan Operation Avalanche" an idea to fake the landing on a soundstage, if for some reason NASA couldn't get this done in time and beat the Russians. And since they're already filmmakers and pretending to be filmmakers, they start undertaking the task. Shot with lots of improvised dialogue and some liberal usage of footage, the movie, seems believable enough as a little spy thriller, and as a comedic backdoor satire, a la in the vein of say, somewhere between "Argo" and "Confessions of a Dangerous Mind", where you're seeing outrageous but plausible in the entertainment world. Actually the film that this movie most reminded me of was Shane Carruth's "Primer", which, is a movie that, I've made no secret that I consider pretty awful, but aesthetically, it fits. It feels like it was shot on a shoestring and involves a lot of conspiracy and mystery between the two young main leads who are in over their head, but thankfully, it's actually based around a reality that's not entirely, in their own head and involves characters actually doing something. "Operation Avalanche" is a pretty neat idea that's executed way better than it probably should be. I probably know a little too much about this to fully be engrossed, at least as I would probably prefer, but, it's a first film, still in college for them, and they overachieved; I'll give them a pass.


DANCER (2016) Director: Steven Cantor

★★1/2



Man, I used to think I really enjoyed documentaries about dancing, but the last few I've run into have left me colder than I'd prefer....

Anyway, Sergei Polunin. If your me, than you've never heard of him either. If you're a practitioner of modern dance and ballet, you're probably infatuated with him. I understand why. He is the bad boy wunderkind of the modern dance world. By any measure, he's one of the greatest dancers alive, and has been for years, and he's still only 27. "Dancer" is an interesting documentary, 'cause essentially it's about being young and at the top of one's profession, and how, straining that can be. The Ukrainian-born Sergei, came from a broken home, but had joined the Royal British Ballet at age 13, and had become the company's youngest and most popular soloist and principal at age 19. He's also, a bit of a handful. He's a rebel, full of tattoos, a partier who's admitted to taking drugs before several performances, including cocaine and LSD, and at some point, he left the Ballet, almost randomly, causing an international incident in dance circles, for him to suddenly turn up in Russia, where he won a reality show contest and became the head of the ballet there. He's also more intrigued by pop music than most, he even has tattoos that reference P. Diddy.  He's probably most famous to the general public because of a Youtube video, made by David LaChapelle that shows Sergei daning to Hozier's "Take Me to Church", which made him a viral superstar. That video was supposed to be his retirement from dancing, and he was 25 when he did that. I think what the movie is trying to get at, more than anything, is to profile somebody, who is just, both naturally brilliant and trained better and harder at a particular artistic craft and seeing them react to being in such a desirable and envious position, while still remaining so young. He's 27 now, and I can't help but to think about several other people in certain other artistic mediums who were also considered the best in their field at the youngest of ages, and a lot of them didn't survive, literally, that age. I kinda understand that. Especially for somebody like a professional dancer who's been working at his craft since he was a kid, so for most of his life, the transition to adulthood is a tricky and bumpy one, especially for a career that's usually, pretty short to begin with. Sergei's behavior, doesn't come off as much surprising to me nowadays as it, as it is, really just good timing and instincts to document Sergei at this time. The thing is, I don't really know how interesting Sergei actually is? They try to really show just how unique he is, and he is, he is unique, but, he is still 25, and there's not much else to him. He's got a lot of life to live and hopefully there will be much more to it in the future. He seems like the kind of person, who as long as he's around will be doing something fascinating and expanding on the art in some inventive, creative ways, if he continues to be a "Dancer". As a film however, I'm not quite sure how great or interesting it is. Sergei's a guy with a lot of life left in him, and I'm sure that life will eventually make for an amazing and exciting film. For now...., I was mostly indifferent and bored, and for now, I'd rather see him dance, than hear about his life.


MOUNTAIN MEN (2016) Director: Cameron Labine

★★★



Most of the reviews I can find about "Mountain Men", are, eh, fairly, eh, brief. Positive, negative, there's not too much to say about; it's just a nice little Indy that's not that bad and not that great. And there's not that much to talk about with it. It's about 90 minutes. The performances are okay. The story's cute. Directing's fine. Writing's fine. Nothing special. As you might imagine, when it comes to movie reviews, these are the annoying ones to write. Anyway, the film is basically a two-hander with two brothers, Cooper (Chace Crawford) and Toph (Tyler Labine). They're from Alaska, Toph has stayed behind and has mostly become a town loafer, a local DJ who doubles as a weed dealer/user or vice-versa depending on the day. Cooper went out and gone to New York, and has mostly tried to run away from his humble beginnings. Their father started going a little nuts a couple years earlier and went up to a mountain cabin, and apparently went missing a few years earlier. That's where the two brothers end up going for the weekend, and things happen and they talk to each other about their problems and life. They're Mom (Christine Willes) who's moved on and gotten remarried, Toph's girlfriend Leah (Britt Irvin), just found out she's pregnant, Cooper's dumped his girlfriend and is preparing to take a job on the other side of the world..... There's some misadventures as well, typical ones that force them to be stuck there on top of the mountains with no phone around them, etc. It's all well-made and well-constructed, plot-wise, story's interesting enough, and both Crawford and Labine are quite good. Labine's brother Cameron wrote and directed the film, his second feature after "Control Alt Delete", which I haven't seen. (Shrugs) Like I said there's not much to be said about the film, but at the same token I can't think of any reason not to recommend it either. It's a nice little comedy-drama Indy film that's made with some ideas and passion behind it, and there's nothing wrong with it. I doubt I'm ever gonna think about it again, except maybe when I catch up Tyler Labine's series, "Deadbeat", which is a pretty good show too btw; it's on Hulu. But for what it is and what it was trying, it succeeded, and-eh, yeah, I'm running out of other things to say about it, so we'll end this review here.


JAFAR PANAHI'S TAXI (2015) Director: Jafar Panahi

★★★★1/2



So, Jafar Panahi, is apparently still making movies. That doesn't seem like a particularly strange statement unless you're aware of who he is, and the fact that he's breaking the law by doing this. Since 2010, Jafar Panahi, after planning to make a movie about the Iranian Government, which, you might recall, that was a tempestuous time in Iran, and it's not like it's government has ever been friendly to artistic types to begin with, and despite Panahi being one of the greatest and most successful and renowned filmmakers that Iran has ever produced, and believe it or not that's quite a longer list than you think (Hell, I've argue on several occasions that the best filmmaker working today is Iran's Asghar Farhadi) he was put under house arrest for six years and refused to be able to make a movie for 20. That has, amazingly not stopped him. This is his third, of four movies that have so far been made under this bad. I've seen, the documentary "This is Not a Film", I haven't caught "Closed Curtain" yet and "Flower", which is purportedly being directed by his son, is still in development. He's not allowed to leave Iran by the way and shoot a film somewhere else, so he's stuck there, and has apparently gotten a job as a taxi driver. 'Jafar Panahi's Taxi', or in some circles it's called "Taxi Tehran" or just "Taxi", shows Jafar, as a taxi driver. The film is shot using three hidden cameras placed on the dashboard of the cab, although based on some of the passengers' reactions it's only somewhat hidden, and those who recognize him figure he's up to something, while others, are probably indifferent. Or possibly just plants. The opening scene of "Taxicab Confessions: Tehran Edition", (I know, I couldn't help it; I live in Vegas, if there's something good and successful that manages to come out of here, I plug it.) involves two customers, a female teacher and a male mugger, who get into an argument over capital punishment. However, this scene already seems questionable, it's confirmed by the next passenger, who not only recognized Panahi, he also recognizes the two passengers as actors. This guy sells pirated DVDs, mostly of American movies and TV shows, but he throws in some art house fair as well. There's a sequence involving two older women traveling with a goldfish that's a reference to Panahi's first film "The White Balloon", which I haven't seen, so that went over my head. Although he brings in a female lawyer who's still lawyering even though she's coming up to the bar association soon, presumably to soon be stripped of her license. She mentions my favorite Panahi film, "Offside" which, like "...Taxi" was shot on and at a real location, in that case, a World Cup Qualifying soccer game, and focused on the women who got caught trying to dress as men to attend the game and were held in a temporary holding cell until the game ends. There is one other filmmaker in the cab, his granddaughter, who's making a movie for school with her little camera phone and has to abide by the government rules on what's appropriate to film, and gets annoyed at a young man she was filming, who didn't behave correctly by giving a bride and groom they happen to run into, back the money that fell out of their pocket. She's adorable and precocious. Panahi, is by all accounts, a terrible cab driver, but it's what he's doing, and the camera's rolling. The last shot of the movie, I genuinely can't talk about, and cannot tell if it was real, or if it was added for the end of the film. Oddly, one of the least memorable parts of the movie, was when Panahi drove a man and his wife to the hospital after he suffered a major motorcycle accident, and he insists on recording him with a camera phone, unaware of Panahi already recording, in order to make sure his wife gets everything after his death by recording his will. Ether way, it gives us a startling reminder of just how dangerous what Panahi's doing, and to some extent, how hopeless those are who are trying to stop him from making movies. Panahi's best gift is his instinctual sense of exploring and examining empathy of it's characters, not only for himself but of others, and yes, riding around in a taxi, you find interesting people who talk a lot. He's not the first to come with the idea, Jim Jarmusch's masterpiece, "Night on Earth" did that as well. "...Taxi", is not that good, but it's probably a more interesting and impressive film, if nothing else for the fact that it was made at all, but also because of what it shows, and because it has a lot more to say, but it's how it says it that's amazing. This film would still be great if it was shot by someone other than Panahi, and told the same story, but I don't think another filmmaker would've made this film. No other filmmaker would be placed in such a position to think about making this film, and nobody in that position, other than Panahi would probably have the balls and guts to do it.